Pop Culture

We Hung Out and Talked Nail Polish With Lil Yachty

GQ linked with the rapper in Atlanta to talk about manicures and his new brand, Crete. 
Lil Yachty
Getty Images; Photo Illustration by C.J. Robinson

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When it comes to grooming, Lil Yachty is probably best known for his signature beaded braids, but on a recent Friday afternoon it was tough to look away from his nails: tiger stripes on his fingers and royal blue swirls on his toes. The 23-year-old rapper has been getting clear-polish manicures for years, but with the recent launch of his own brand Crete, he’s in the nail polish business—and looked like it.

We met at his new 5-bedroom house on a lake outside Atlanta, and he sauntered past a crystal acrylic piano, a life-sized statue of Yoda, and and a very cute but not completely house-trained dog named Carti to situate himself on a custom green yellow and purple Togo sofa. It was 3 p.m. and he had only been awake for about an hour—but that’s not to say he didn’t have a packed day planned. He had a Zoom in an hour. At 5 p.m., he was supposed to be an hour away at Icebox, the jewelry store that’s a favorite of the city’s top music industry talent—Migos, Lil Baby—to get his sister a watch as a high school graduation gift. That ceremony was to begin at 7. At some point between all of this, he was meant to have a design meeting about the two neighboring lake houses he bought last year on impulse. “I don’t know what I want sometimes. I just kind of live,” he said, noting he wasn’t halfway through his last lease before he decided to move into the current spot. “When I got [this house], I was like well, my neighbors are too close—I want that house, too. So that’s where my friends live.”

He says it was a similar sort of whim, at around the same time, that made him think about getting into the world of beauty and grooming with Crete. And so far, his instincts seem to be working: The brand launched the last week of May and sold out before the end of the day. There’s nothing Greek about it—It’s a play on the word “concrete,” which Yachty often uses to refer to his team. (“The whole concrete thing is basically being solid,” he says.) Crete launched online with three shades—black, white, and gray. (Or, rather, to extend the construction theme, “asphalt,” “concrete” and “sheetrock.”) It’s aimed at everyone, including guys new to wearing nail polish, and rather than standard bottles and brushes, it comes as an easy-to-use pen that dispenses small doses of quick-drying polish with a simple click.

Crete Asphalt nail paint

Lil Yachty says his own experience with nail polish began when A$AP Rocky inspired him to start getting professional buffs and clear polish. “I started doing it about 3 or 4 year ago,” he said. “I got compliments instantly. I felt clean. My nails weren’t dirty and nasty. I felt more mature.” During the pandemic, he expanded his horizons after a nail tech named Rosa Yee DM’d him a manicure offer. Their first collaboration featured clear polish black designs: “Live Fast” on Yachty’s thumbs, an 8 ball, a cross, the year Yachty was born (‘97) and the word “toes” spread across his four of his toenails. It got 1.6 million likes on TikTok.

Since then, their designs have gotten more ambitious and colorful. For Christmas, the rapper’s fingernails had a holiday theme: Santa Claus, a reindeer, the Grinch. These days, Yee sends him ideas ahead of time and pays him a visit every other Sunday. (Crete is also selling nail stickers based on the viral TikTok designs.)

Yachty says if it were up to him, he would’ve launched Crete with bolder colors, but the initial release was meant to be as welcoming as possible for people who are new to the nail polish program. “Let’s just say, I felt as if a lot of men may have wanted to do it—but it felt too feminine,” he said. But it seems those worries were short lived: A rapper with a nail polish line feels perfectly natural in 2021, and in about a month, he will release a trio of colors called “Heatwave”: bright red, orange and yellow.

Courtesy of Crete

Steve McQueen with some red painted nails.

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